The Man Who Wired The World : Mark Zuckerberg's crusade to put every single human being online.

Mark Zuckerberg is not the angry, lonely introvert of The Social Network. That character may have been useful for dramatic purposes, but he never actually existed.

In person one-on-one, Zuckerberg is a warm presence, not a cold one. He hasn't been lonely for a long time : he met Priscilla Chan, the woman who would become his wife, in his sophomore year at Harvard.

In October, he stunned an audience in Beijing when he gave an interview in halting but still credible Mandarin. Watch the video : he's grinning his face off. He's having a blast. He's like that most of the time.

Zuckerberg can be extremely awkward in conversation, but that's not because he's nervous or insecure; nervous and insecure people rarely become the 14th richest person in the world.

Zuckerberg is in fact supremely confident, almost to the point of being aggressive. But casual conversation is supposed to be playful, and he doesn't do playfulness well. 

He gets impatient with the slowness, the low bandwidth of ordinary speech, hence the darting gaze.

He has too much the engineer's approach to conversation : it's less about social interaction than about swapping information as rapidly as possible.

''Mark is one of the best listeners I've ever met,'' says Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO.

'' When you talk to Mark, he doesn't just listen to what you say. He listens to what you didn't say, what you emphasized. He digests the information, he comes back to you and asks five followup questions. He's incredibly inquisitive.''

I have found this to be true - sometimes he gives the impression of having thought through what I'm saying better than I have - with the caveat that listening to me [ unlike, I imagine, listening to Sandberg, or for that matter speaking Chinese ] doesn't consume much of his bandwidth to keep his attention from wandering off in search of more data.

Probably it's not an accident that he invented an entirely new way to socialize : efficiently, remotely, in bulk.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Lev Grossman.


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